The first INSPEC2T test case took place in Belfast, Northern Ireland, led by Ulster University in collaboration with the PSNI, local resident groups and various other key stakeholders, within the Holylands area of the city. The Holylands area was chosen as it has the largest volume of the student population in Belfast, who reside alongside permanent residents.
The test case was conducted 24-26th April 2017 inclusive and involved more than 60 participants including senior and community level police officers from PSNI South Belfast District, Holyland’s residents (permanent and students) as well as statutory bodies including Belfast City Council and the Department for Environment, Agriculture and Rural Affairs (DEARA). There was also assistance sought from experienced role actors and the Lancashire Constabulary.
The objectives of the Belfast Test Case were to:
- Improve communication flows between residents and PSNI.
- Enhance the robustness and transparency of crime data within the area.
- Highlight the potential of ICT in supporting CP.
- Provide infrastructure to support inter-agency collaboration.
- Develop and improve the ‘sense of community’ within the Holylands.
- Enhance citizen awareness of personal security.
- Promote inclusion of ‘hard to reach’ groups – ethnic minorities and students, etc.
- Make students more aware of their social responsibilities and stimulate engagement with permanent residents.
The test case consisted of:
- Day one, which comprised onsite training to ensure that Citizen and LEA users were familiar with the objectives and parameters of the test case as well as being operationally competent on all aspects of the INSPEC2T system.
- Days two and three, which comprised ‘live’ testing of the INSPEC2T system within the Holylands area of the city using 5 carefully designed and managed scenarios.The scenarios included:
1. Anti-Social Behaviour
2. Drug Dealing
3. Illegal Dumping
4. Theft from a parked car
5. A missing person
With the help of PSNI approved actors and Lancashire Constabulary the scenarios were re-enacted across the Holylands area over the course of the two days. Students and residents living in the area who had been trained on the INSPEC2T system were briefed during the onsite training that actors would be deployed in the Holylands area over the course of the next two days but crucially they were unaware of the nature of the crimes being role played or the time/location of the incidents. Residents were encouraged to go about their normal daily routines on days two and three of the test case but in the event that they witnessed a crime or incident within their locale they were to use the INSPEC2T App to report it.
The five scenarios played out within the Belfast served to test all functions and features of the INSPEC2T system and culminated in a series of ‘staged’ arrests. Importantly, the facilitation of these arrests were wholly dependent upon officers being provided the necessary information via the INSPEC2T system – as the community police officers were wholly dependent upon the INSPEC2T system to inform their deployment over the course of the two days.
Whilst some initial technical issues were apparent over the course of the on-site training, these issues were quickly resolved. The INSPEC2T system proved to be technically robust over the course of the live exercises with feedback from citizens and PSNI officers being highly positive on the potential of the INSPEC2T concept.
From a positive end user perspective, the INSPEC2T solution was viewed as being functional. Participants felt the system was ‘easy-to-use’ and it was suggested that the system would encourage higher levels of crime reporting – as it was streamlined and much more efficient than the current 101 call system. Furthermore, the INSPEC2T system was viewed as offering a more effective platform for two-way communication strategies as current social media channels are very much centred on ‘pushing’ information.
The Business Intelligence features of INSPEC2T were also highlighted as a strength in that they could serve to improve collaboration between statutory bodies, enhance transparency around the volume and true nature of crime within a designated spatial context which in turn could provide an evidence base for informing resource allocations. This feature, including the ability to spatially analyse more delineated geography, was considered a key value proposition. Especially if the data was held within a central repository, (i.e., all agencies contributed to the same data pool).
Participants displayed a willingness to maintain correspondence with the INSPEC2T project and to reassess the system as it becomes more robust and streamlined. There is an ‘open’ request for the system to be tested in a rural context within Northern Ireland involving statutory bodies including PSNI, DEARA, Ultser Farmers’ Union (UFU). This will be scheduled after phase one test cases are completed.
As expected, this first test case yielded a number of important lessons and the consortium look forward to implementing lessons learnt in further versions of the technology. Specifically, a number of suggestions were offered by PSNI officers to improve the system from an operational context including improving the level of information provided on the mapping display, enhancing the automated correlation capacity between reported incidents which presently places too high a weighting on spatial proximity. A number of suggestions were also put forward in terms of the user interface and how this might be made more operator friendly. Resident participants would also like incidents to be assigned with an ‘incident number’ as they would like to get updates/feedback on the outcome of the incident. People will only continue to report incidents if they feel their efforts are valued – in this regard feedback is important. These suggestions will serve to enhance the deployment capacity of the system going forward. Feedback from end users in a more constructive manner included areas such as training, issues surrounding the operability of the INSPEC2T solution on mobile devices, functions needing to be faster and less cumbersome and needing to be more user friendly and clearer visually.
Overall the test case, although being the first and suffering from all the initial teething problems, proved to be a success especially in terms of stakeholder engagement and future possibilities. The Belfast test highlighted some key considerations going forward, such as:
- What measures will be introduced to enable the system to achieve critical mass in terms of uptake? INSPEC2T needs to serve as a ‘one stop shop’ – statutory bodies do not want multiple systems operating in parallel.
- Will the INSPEC2T system be able to interface/communicate with existing command and control systems? For many municipalities they will be seeking a system that compliments rather than replaces their existing system.
- Road testing and validation will be key to ‘consumer confidence’. The test case model works well in this regard but it is important that stakeholders involved in informing/enhancing the design and functional capacity are kept informed of how they can access modified versions.
- Who will assume responsibility for data security and data management?
From the Belfast test case there have been some future follow-up links, which are currently being further developed:
- A request to update and keep resident participants in the Holylands informed as the system becomes more robust – a future desktop demo will be scheduled.
- A rural deployment of the system with key stakeholders including PSNI, DEARA, etc.
- The Town and Gown magazine is to run an article on the benefits of INSPEC2T.
The lessons learned from the Belfast test case have proved very beneficial to the development of INSPEC2T and the issues arising from the testing process are being rectified and built upon to ensure that the phase 2 test cases in Groningen and Preston later this year can benefit from a fully operational platform.
Do you want to see the INSPEC2T solution Live Demo? Take part in the Next Generation Community Policing (NGCP) Conference! Learn more here!.